The Tanzania Comprehensive Cancer Project is a first-of-its kind initiative addressing the impact of non-communicable diseases in the country and wider region.

As the burden of cancer grows around the world, it exerts a heavy physical, emotional and financial strain on individuals, families and health services.

Developing countries are least prepared to manage this – many patients lack access to quality diagnosis and treatment. In countries with strong health systems, however, cancer-related survival rates are improving due to early detection and quality treatment and care.

In an effort to strengthen the health system in Tanzania, the Aga Khan Hospital in Dar es Salaam launched a state-of-the-art cancer care centre this week, for which the foundation stone was laid by Princess Zahra and Honourable Ummy Ally Mwalimu, Minister of Health of the United Republic of Tanzania.

The new centre is valued at US$ 107.5 million and expected to open in 2024. A considerable portion of cancer patients who currently cannot afford treatment will be able to secure welfare support to treat the disease.

“We know that non-communicable diseases, including cancer, affect us all,” said Honourable Minister Ummy Ally Mwalimu in her remarks at the event. “We all know people whose lives have been cut short by cancer. It also causes significant losses to the nation because the disease reduces the workforce…”

The project aims to reduce cancer morbidity and mortality in Dar es Salaam and Mwanza. It will provide 1.7 million people with better screening, early diagnosis and quality treatment. The centre will also support cancer care services in 100 public primary-care facilities in the region.

For more than a century, the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) has been contributing to poverty alleviation, education, health care, economic development and cultural restoration in Tanzania. Through the Aga Khan Health Services (AKHS), it has worked in close collaboration with the Ministry of Health for many years, in the areas of health service delivery, maternal child and newborn health, capacity building and now cancer care.

The Network contributes to and positively impacts the health of over a million people in the country every year.

“AKHS Tanzania’s continued growth over nine decades is a strong testimony of our commitment to health care and development in this country,” said Princess Zahra. “Today, AKHS facilities are known for their high level of ethical practices, innovation and provision of quality, safe and evidence-based care.”

The cancer centre will serve as a key hub for the innovative Tanzania Comprehensive Cancer Project, a public-private initiative funded by Agence Française de Développement and the Aga Khan Foundation. The Project brings together key health institutions to promote cancer care of international standards in Tanzania.

All cancers can be treated, and many can be prevented or cured. According to the World Health Organization, comprehensive treatment is available in more than 90 percent of high-income countries but less than 15 percent of low-income ones.

The new centre launched this week intends to tackle this gap, as part of AKDN’s aim to bring quality cancer care to countries for which, until now, it had been out of reach.